For some gay men, a condoms-every-time regimen can be a challenge. Others have a hard time popping PrEP every day. Now a butt gel wants to ease deeply into your arsenal of STI prevention.
Actually, a gel lubricant is just one of the ways an anal microbicide could change the way you think about butt sex. The prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections could be on the precipice of a new frontier, according to the HIVequal campaign.
A rectal microbicide is a topical substance, which may come in the form or a lube, anal douche, or a wash, that is being developed and tested to reduce a person’s risk of HIV and other STIs.
Although most research on microbicides has focused on vaginal intercourse, it is reported that anal intercourse increases the risk of HIV infection by as much as 10 to 20 percent. Researchers are now looking at the rectal safety of microbicide gels originally formulated for vaginal sex.
Let’s assume you're already lubing and douching – please say you are. So when it comes to preventatives you can do and adhere to before and/or after sexytime, the International Rectal Microbicide Advocates may really be onto something. Call her IRMA.
“As a co-founder of IRMA, which turns 10 years old this year, I am an ardent believer in the potential impact of a rectal microbicide for the men, women, and transgender individuals around the world who engage in anal intercourse,” Jim Pickett, who is also director of prevention, advocacy and gay men’s health at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, tells HIVequal.
“Such a product needs to be safe and effective, it needs to be accessible, and just as important, it needs to be desirable, something that people want to use,” Pickett adds. “And people want and deserve choices.
Clinical trials have completed Phase II, but with applicators rather than hand-applied solutions. Pickett says applicators similar to the ones for enemas are “decidedly unsexy,” so further work with “scientists, advocates, ethicists, and community members” is expected to hopefully work out a lube during Phase III.
Upcoming trials include one study of couples who “take a microbicide gel and apply it with fingers and penises, and then test to see if enough drug gets to where it needs to go rectally.” Sounds like our kind of study.
All of this hard work begs the ultimate question: When science and industry put out a microbicidal lube, do you think you would actually use it? While you enjoy your butt sex and Truvada too, answer only after you consider two things: Gay men don’t stick to PrEP as well as other demographic groups, and condom-only messages are failing gay men.